How to help in a car crash

Last Updated on : 19th November 2017

Between June 2016 – June 2017 there were 27,130 people killed or seriously injured in road accidents. In most EU countries, First Aid is a compulsory element of driving tests; however, in the UK, only the most basic first aid knowledge is required (just a couple of questions in the theory test). Consequently, most drivers involved in accidents are likely to feel totally unprepared if they are first on scene at a road traffic accident.


How to help if you are first on scene at an accident:

Your own safety is always the priority when approaching the scene of an accident. Ensure all traffic is stationary, everyone knows there has been an accident to prevent additional casualties. If there is any spilled fuel or other fire hazards turn off car ignitions. Ensure vehicle hazard lights are turned on and use a warning triangle if possible.

If there are other bystanders ask them to phone the emergency services however if you are on your own, your priority is to assess the situation and treat any life-threatening conditions first and then call for an ambulance.

Wounded woman calling for an ambulance after a car accident

Immediately establish how many vehicles have been involved in the collision and assess all occupants of all vehicles to ensure none of the casualties have life-threatening injuries. People screaming, crying and making a noise must be breathing! – your priority at this point is to check anyone quiet and motionless.



If anyone is not moving:

As quickly as possible establish whether they are responsive. If there is no response, check if they are breathing.

Unresponsive and breathing:

Ensure they are in a position where they are leaning forward or to one side to ensure the airway remains open. Move them as little as possible and avoid twisting them. Keep talking to the casualty calmly as they will be able to hear you, even if they are unconscious and keep them warm and dry.

Unresponsive and not breathing:

2If the person is not breathing you will need to resuscitate them. If you are on your own and haven’t called an ambulance yet, do so immediately. Ask the emergency services for their advice on the best way to resuscitate as this is extremely difficult if the casualty is in a car.

Only attempt to remove an unconscious person from their vehicle if there is an immediate danger to their life, e.g. from fire, flood, or explosion. Ask the emergency services over the phone for their guidance as to what you should do. It is very difficult to extricate an unconscious person from a vehicle and there is a major risk of exacerbating their injuries and of injuring yourself in the process.

Conscious casualties should be taken care of by bystanders and removed from the wreckage to a safe area. Ensure any major bleeding or life-threatening injuries are treated first. Be aware that casualties might dazed and confused and could wander off into danger, so be sure to keep a close eye on them. Brief the bystanders to keep the casualties warm and calm and help them contact their next of kin.

Anyone trapped in a vehicle should be monitored carefully and the emergency services notified immediately. If someone has been crushed; note the exact time when that the accident occurred as this is vital to the emergency services in deciding on how and when to release the casualty. If there are additional people around, show them how to assist and stabilise the casualty to avoid them twisting and exacerbating a possible spinal injury. If there is severe bleeding this will need to be controlled – wear gloves and apply dressings.

Do not allow anyone to smoke at the scene or give the casualties anything to eat or drink following the accident in case they need an operation later.

If a motorcyclist is involved in the accident, only remove their helmet if they are unconscious and there is no other way to assess their breathing or their airway is in danger. There is usually a way of lifting the visor, it may be sensible to loosen their chin strap.

If a casualty has been hit by a car and they are lying on their back unconscious and breathing – they should be carefully log-rolled into the recovery position to keep their spine in line. Ideally, this should be done with the support of others to avoid twisting the spine.

If a casualty has been hit by a vehicle or thrown from one and they are conscious in the road, they should be encouraged to keep still. Ensure that someone is directing traffic and maintaining safety. Support their head and neck, keep them warm and dry and wait for the emergency services.

It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit, or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.





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